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Cloth masks do not protect against omicron variant better than N95, CDC reports

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Manish Saini
Manish works as a Journalist and writer at Revyuh.com. He has studied Political Science and graduated from Delhi University. He is a Political engineer, fascinated by politics, and traditional businesses. He is also attached to many NGO's in the country and helping poor children to get the basic education. Email: Manish (at) revyuh (dot) com

According to the most recent CDC data, different masks give different levels of protection and should be used differently. According to the revised guidelines, “loosely woven cloth coverings” provide the least protection.

More protection is provided by well-fitting disposable surgical masks and KN95 masks. Respirators with a good fit, such as N95 masks authorized by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, “offer the highest level of protection.”

Both the N95 and the KN95 are types of respirators that filter out the majority of virus particles and come with markings to prove they are genuine. To work properly, both types of masks must form a seal against the face.

As the name implies, N95 masks are designed to filter up to 95% of particles and have been authorized by NIOSH. According to Anne Miller, executive director of Project N95, a nonprofit group that distributes free N95s and children’s masks in the United States, KN95s are intended to fulfill an equivalent Chinese standard, but there is no Chinese regulatory agency monitoring that. However, she claims that certain American companies produce high-quality KN95s.

The CDC noted in a statement that it updated the website to “lay out the protection provided by available masks and respirators, noting that some provide better protection than others.”

The revisions, according to the EPA, “reflect the science on masking, including what we have learned in the past two years, and will provide people the information they need to improve how well their masks or respirators protect them.”

The CDC continues to recommend that surgical N95s with special labels be used only in healthcare settings. However, the guideline notes that certain people, including bus drivers, grocery store clerks, and others who encounter people who don’t always wear masks, may choose to wear nonsurgical N95 or KN95 masks. Someone caring for an immunocompromised or sick individual may also benefit from well-fitting N95s or KN95s.

The precise wording of the update has been the subject of email exchanges and multiple revisions this week between the CDC and officials at the Department of Health and Human Services, according to an administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the process.

The CDC was considering stronger language around the use of N95 or KN95 masks for people who can wear them consistently earlier this week.

President Biden said on Thursday that all Americans would receive free high-quality masks. The White House is anticipated to release the details next week, including the sort of masks that will be provided by the government.

Experts have frequently asked the Biden administration to recommend that individuals use better-quality masks to guard against the airborne virus, and to emphasize the necessity of masking, since the highly transmissible omicron strain has caused record levels of infections and hospitalizations.

The CDC did not recommend mask use when it first published its guidance in 2020, citing a fear that health professionals would be unable to obtain them. However, health experts have stated that there are no longer any major shortages of N95 masks, which is also stated on the CDC website.

According to a source close to the discussions, the CDC has been working on the update for some weeks, but its completion was contingent on the government’s recent completion of its examination of the mask supply chain.

According to prepared testimony by Dawn O’Connell, assistant secretary for preparedness and response, at a Tuesday Senate committee hearing, the United States has 747 million N95 masks in the national stockpile as of Dec. 29, 59 times pre-pandemic levels.

Two years into the outbreak, N95 and KN95 masks are more widely available, although they still cost substantially more than cotton masks.

“This cost barrier can exacerbate already significant health inequities,” said the Infectious Diseases Society of America in a statement about the updated CDC information.

Biden’s promise that the administration will soon make high-quality masks available for free heartened the organization.

Image Credit: Getty

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